From Maesk Counseling in Fort Lauderdale - Feel Better...Adopt a Pet!

This time something a little different than Fort Lauderdale counseling or therapy per se.  How about adopting a senior pet?!  It's well known that there are numerous benefits to owning a pet, such as a sense of connection, warmth, heightened feelings of relaxation, etc.

Here is an article from the Sun-Sentinel that talks about adopting senior pets.  So before you rush out and get that spry young kitty or puppy, be a hero and give a senior or ailing pet a try.  They will love you just as much and you will be doing a good deed!

November is Adopt a Senior Pet Month

Try to guess the best kept secret in the pet rescue world. If you answered, “Adopting an older cat or dog”, then pat yourself on the back. It’s the best gift you can give yourself…and the pet you’re adopting. And now’s the perfect time: November is “Adopt a Senior Pet Month.”

Think of all the reasons why a senior pet is the perfect fit: 
• He’s a lot calmer than a rambunctious puppy or kitten
• He may have had experience living with someone…and may adjust to children and other pets more readily.
• He’s likely housetrained, so you won’t be getting up in the middle of the night to take him out…or find puddles on your carpet when you get home.
• He probably knows basic obedience commands, so if you accidentally drop a glass, he’ll may know to “stay” and not cut himself. 
• He’ll be less destructive. The days of chewing shoes and swallowing socks are far behind him.


So what does “old” really mean? Most pet owners multiply their pet’s age by 7 and think that’s the age in human years. But that’s not quite accurate.

The American Animal Hospital Association offers a wide age range for pets that are considered “senior”: 7-11 years old for a cat and 5-8 years old for a dog.

Traditional veterinary dogma believes that the larger the dog, the faster he ages.
For example, a small dog like a Chihuahua is considered a senior at 8 years old. But it’s not unusual for one – given proper care- to live into his late ‘teens. A Great Dane, on the other hand, is considered a senior at age 5 with a lifespan of 7-10 years.

Making an evidence-based determination of when all pets should be considered “senior” is difficult because of breed and species differences. 

Veterinarians use the term “Senior” when a dog or cat has reached the last 25% of their life expectancy.  Your veterinarian can help you understand your pet's true age. Learn more here

Senior dogs, like senior people, have a lot of life left in them. Many of them still enjoy hiking, long walks, swimming and chasing their favorite critters. Learn more about caring for dogs at every stage of life here.

Senior cats are also a good bet! They fight the signs of aging for years and many have very similar behavior to when they were young. It’s often impossible to differentiate between a three year old and well cared for thirteen year old cat.
The American Animal Hospital Association has great resources on how to care for cats at any life stage.


Here are questions to ask yourself:

Q: Do I want a dog who still is very active but who won’t destroy the house with his excessive energy? 
A: YES? Consider adopting a 7-12 year-old mix-breed with retriever, pointer, pit bull or hound in her lineage.
Q: Do I want a dog to just keep my couch warm and give me lots of love? 
A: YES? Try a retired racing greyhound. Believe it or not, greyhounds are fantastic couch potatoes and there are hundreds waiting in shelters for forever homes.  
Q: Do I want a pint-sized companion who I can carry with me to Starbucks and take on the plane? 
A: YES? Opt for a breed like a Chihuahua (one of the most common little cuties waiting to be rescued) or poodle mix. 
Older cats can make fantastic travel companions, too, especially if they enjoy nesting in a carrier.
Q: Do I want to help a medically-challenged dog or cat live out her life comfortably in a loving home?
A: YES? Look online or visit your local shelter for a pet with “Special Needs.” Certain “needs,” such as having only one eye or three legs, actually require little extra care. If you fall in love with a pet with other medical issues and have concerns about care, speak to a veterinarian before you adopt.


Just as life expectancy in humans has increased, the same has happened with our pets. Veterinary medicine has reached a golden age in our ability treat pets in their golden years. Veterinary practices are delivering higher-quality medical care to family pets, and animals are living well past what used to be considered a normal life span. Likewise, veterinary practices are diagnosing and outlining treatments for greater numbers of chronic and age-related diseases.

While your veterinarian may have access to cutting-edge treatments specifically geared for older animals including pain management, MRIs and chemotherapy, kidney transplants, acupuncture and herbal therapies, not every senior pet needs this type of aggressive treatment.

If you choose to share your life with an older pet, there is no shortage of resources for you to be sure that the time you spend with him will be rewarding and peaceful.


Once you bring your “new-to-you” senior pet home from the shelter, the next step is to visit is your veterinarian who can identify diseases that could have been transmitted within the shelter or prior to adoption. Many veterinarians follow the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Senior Care Guidelines for Dogs and Cats which recommend that “senior” wellness tests begin for pets at middle age to establish baseline values and to ensure that there are no clinically silent health abnormalities. If your pet is middle aged, your vet may recommend a physical exam and laboratory testing every year or every 6 months for senior pet.

As pets age, they can develop problems similar to those seen in elderly people. These health issues can include cancer, heart disease, kidney/urinary tract disease, liver disease, diabetes, joint or bone disease, senility, and weakness.

Be sure to keep a close eye on her as more changes occur in older bodies.

As your pet ages, so do you. What’s more special than aging together?

For more information, click on the links below: 

1.       AAHA’s main Website

2.       Hospital locator

3.       Senior Dog and Cat Guidelines

4.       Dog and Cat Life Stage Guidelines

5.       The Dental Guidelines.

(Credit to:  Heather Loenser, DVM
Staff Veterinary Advisor for the American Animal Hospital Association)